Energy deregulation is available to many residential and commercial electricity consumers in many states in America — one of them being Illinois. Deregulation differs from regulation in that instead of dealing with one or two electricity providers (utilities), the market is open to competition. This means that consumers have the right to choose the company that supplies their electricity out of many different electricity providers.
One possible benefit of energy deregulation has to do with the competition that having many electricity providers (compared to just one or two) generates. An electricity provider must offer services, rates, or plans that suit the consumer’s needs and budget. If they don’t, the consumer has the option to take their business to an electricity provider that does suits their needs. As a result, electricity rates have the potential to remain much more reasonable, with flexible plans, payment methods and contract lengths.
While consumers have the choice to switch electricity providers in an energy deregulated market, they must still deal with the utility. In all states and cities within the US, utilities remain in charge of maintenance and delivery. Therefore, if a consumer spots downed wires or poles in their neighborhood for example, they must continue to contact the utility to get the issue fixed (instead of the service provider).
Energy Deregulation in Illinois
There are several states that are energy deregulated. Some of these states include, Texas, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Illinois is another state where energy is deregulated.
Brief History of Illinois Deregulation
In 1997, the state passed a law called “The Illinois Electric Service Customer Choice and The Rate Relief Law”. One major reason why this law was created was due to the fact that at the time, Illinois had some of the highest rates for electricity in the United States.
The next step was for the state to start deregulating, along with many other states. In 1999, Illinois lawmakers took strides to begin separating supply related services from the major utilities. By 2002, commercial entities within the state had the ability to select their energy provider. In order to help smaller businesses, not to mention residential customers that did not yet have access to energy deregulation, the state dramatically lowered electricity rates, locking them in for 10 years.
This however, did not help to encourage electricity providers to enter the market to help service residential and small business consumers. While large businesses were taking advantage of emerging energy providers, because the rates were so low for other consumers, providers did not feel they could compete. Eventually, the state passed the Retail Competition Act, which helped to better outline energy regulation for residential and small business consumers.
Deregulated Areas of Illinois
Energy providers in Illinois offer a wide range of services to many consumers. While there are too many areas to outline here, the following provide a snap shot of the major deregulated cities in Illinois. This snapshot includes number of households and general number of business, as well as the city’s size. The reason for this is to try and provide some context around how much electricity Illinois requires on a daily basis.
Population (2013): 2.719 million
Area Size: 606.1 kilometers squared
Number of Businesses: 265,000
Number of Households: 2,836,469
Population (2103): 117,006
Area Size: 213.2 kilometers squared
Number of Businesses: 2,121,235
Number of Households: 460,000
Population (2013): 144,864
Area Size: 92 kilometers squared
Number of Businesses: thousands
Number of Households: 53,408
Population (2013): 116,513
Area Size: 461 kilometers squared
Number of Businesses: thousands
Number of Households: 57,457
Population (2013): 150,251
Area Size: 158.2 kilometers squared
Number of Businesses: thousands
Number of Households: 59,158
Major Electricity Providers in Illinois
As of 2014, there were 87 energy providers offering services to electricity consumers in Illinois. Some of these electricity providers offer services in multiple areas of the state, while others only offer services within a specific city or area. In order to determine which companies provide services where, enter your zip code at the top of this page to reveal some service providers and the plans and rates they offer within that specific area.
An example of some the electricity providers that currently offer services in Illinois include:
- Direct Energy
- Spark Energy
- IDT Energy
- Champion Energy Services
- Oasis Energy
Major Utilities in Illinois
In the state of Illinois, there are 4 major utilities that provide services to both commercial and residential consumers. These utilities include,
- Commonwealth Edison Company
- MidAmerican Energy Company
- Ameren Illinois
- Mt. Carmel Public Utility Company
Should a consumer choose to receive their electricity supply from an electricity provider, they will still receive some charges from the utility that provides service to their area. Delivery, for example, is a charge that consumers can expect to see in addition to their supply related charges.
The state also has 4 power plants, which include:
- NRG Energy
Illinois Commerce Commission
While many states have Public Utility Commissions, Illinois has a Commerce Commission. Despite the differences in name, their function remains the same.
The Illinois Commerce Commission is responsible for monitoring and managing electricity related regulations for the state. The organization’s mission is “to balance the interests of consumers and utilities to ensure adequate, efficient, reliable, safe and least-cost public utility services”.
As a whole, the Illinois Commerce Commission handles utilities including:
- Natural Gas
- Water and Sewer
Focuses of Illinois’ Commerce Commission
In regards to electricity, the Illinois Commerce Commission has an incredibly in-depth focus, especially in areas including:
Programs and Initiatives:
There are many different electricity related programs and initiatives available in Illinois. The purpose of these programs is to provide consumers with different options, and in many cases relief from their electricity bills.
To keep consumers informed about current electricity related policies, the Illinois Commerce Commission will provide information to the public. The organization truly aims to keep the public as well informed as possible so that they can make the best possible decisions regarding their electricity.
These reports provide a lot of background to the public about the current state of the energy market in Illinois. Utilities are required to submit information to the Illinois Commerce Commission in order to prove that they are acting in the best interests of the public. If a utility wants to increase their rates, they must go through the Commission to receive approval. These requests (and eventual outcomes or results) are made available to the public.
Certifications and Registrations:
For consumers looking into signing up with an electricity provider, the Illinois Commerce Commission provides a lot of information about how to discover registered organizations. Contacting a registered electricity provider is very important because they are the organizations that will provide the best and more importantly, legal services.